Resolution has published research that found that 65% of children of divorced parents felt the divorce had adversely affected their exam results. The research also indicated that divorce can affect a child’s personal life and can lead to child experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Divorce can also lead to other issues for a child such as getting into trouble at school and playing truant.
The question is has this research actually told us anything that we didn’t already know? Clients have long told me about the impact of divorce on the children’s lives and the impact on their schooling. Divorce is a major trauma for all concerned and it inevitably leads to life as parties and children know it changing i.e. changes in the living arrangements, the family dynamics, financial circumstances and lifestyle.
The research did however shed some interesting light on why schooling and exam results in general are affected and it suggests that many of the children surveyed found it harder to focus on homework and coursework as a result of a divorce. In addition around 15% of children have to move schools as a result of a divorce which means that they are not only facing disruption in their home life but also in their school life.
Worryingly the research records that the children felt direct pressure from getting caught up in an acrimonious divorce with a third of children saying that they felt that a parent tried to turn them against the other parent. A quarter of the children surveyed said they felt that their parents had deliberately tried to engage them in the dispute. Sadly the research also suggests that a fifth of children lose contact with a grandparent when their parents’ divorce.
What can we learn from this research and what can be done to minimise the impact of divorce on children and their schooling? Here are my tips:
- If you wish to divorce but your child is due to sit their GCSEs or A Levels at around the same time, then it might be sensible to hold off on taking any steps to divorce until the exams have finished because a divorce is likely to have a destabilising impact on the children.
- It is important that parties who divorce take a child-centred approach to their divorce and put the needs of their children first.
- Do not expose your children to the acrimony and stress of the divorce.
- Do not ask your children to take sides or involve them in your dispute with your spouse.
- Try to keep as much of their lives as stable as possible and recognise the importance of their relationships with their extended family i.e. grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.
- If possible try to remain on amicable terms with your spouse. You may not be able to live together any longer but you do have an ongoing parenting role that will survive the divorce and it is better for all concerned if that can be carried out in a consistent and united way.
- Try to reach an agreement that will not result in the children having to move schools.
- Be aware of the possible consequences of a divorce on your children and recognise worrying behaviour patterns early in order to provide love, support and reassurance to prevent further issues developing.
- Work together with the school in order to manage the impact of the divorce as best as possible.
- If your child is struggling with the emotional impact of the divorce then seek professional help to put in place coping mechanisms for them.
If you and your spouse are struggling to work together and take a child-centered approach to your divorce then perhaps you should consider attending a Separated Parents Information Programme to help you move forward and work together for the sake of the children.